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PRESS RELEASE 3-11-16: Five Physicians Honored for Outstanding Care of Patients Near End of Life

Leaders in improving the care of people with dementia and integrating palliative care into medical practice receive the 2016 Hastings Center Cunniff-Dixon Physician Awards.

A physician who brings “humanism” to the care of people with dementia and their families and another physician who is a “passionate advocate” for palliative care are among the five recipients of the 2016 Hastings Center Cunniff-Dixon Physician Awards.

The awards were made in three categories: a senior award and a mid-career award of $25,000 each and three early-career awards of $15,000 apiece. Each recipient has been exemplary in one or more of four areas: medical practice, teaching, research, and community.

The Cunniff-Dixon Foundation, whose mission is to enrich the doctor-patient relationship near the end of life, funds the awards. The Hastings Center, a bioethics research institute that has done groundbreaking work on end-of-life decision-making, cosponsors the awards. Duke University Divinity School’s Program in Medicine, Theology, and Culture oversees the selection process.

“Now in the seventh year of our collaboration with the Cunniff-Dixon Foundation, The Hastings Center is prouder than ever to be working together to honor these physicians, says Mildred Z. Solomon, Ed.D, president of The Hastings Center. “They possess an uncommon combination of bedside and organizational skills that is transforming the experience of dying in America.”

The 2016 recipients are:

Senior Physician Award: Marian Hodges, MD, MPH,Bain Chair of Geriatric Medicine, and regional medical director for geriatrics, Providence Health & Services, Portland, Ore. The selection committee praised her for providing outstanding care to cognitively impaired seniors. She has co-authored books for professionals and the general public to address the unmet needs of people with dementia. The selection committee also noted her humanism, particularly her ability to capture a patient’s story and integrate this into her comprehensive and compassionate care practices. “I think this is Marian’s true superpower,” wrote one of her nominators, “to know who a person was, who they are, and remain personally engaged in caring for them, and yet be totally professionally and technically competent.”

Mid-Career Physician Award:Paul E. Tatum III,MD, MSPH, CMD, FAAHPM, AGSF, associate professor of clinical family and community medicine, University of Missouri-Columbia. The selection committee cited him for practicing palliative care from a primary care perspective. He is widely respected for his expertise in symptom management and personalized care. He serves on the board of directors of the Academy of Hospice and Palliative Care and is an important role model for physicians in his community. “Paul is a true leader and a passionate advocate for palliative care,” wrote one of his nominators. “He has worked tirelessly to promote palliative care, regularly meeting with senators and representatives to draw attention to the needs of vulnerable patients and gain support for important palliative care issues.”

Early-Career Physician Awards:

Ross Albert,MD, PhD, chief of palliative medicine, Hartford Hospital, and medical director, Hartford HealthCare at Home hospice and HOPE palliative care teams, Hartford, Ct. Although he is early in his career, he is recognized by colleagues as someone whom they would choose to be their personal doctor because of his dedication and competence.

Rashmi Sharma, MD, MHS, an attending physician in the palliative care consult service and an assistant professor in the division of general medicine, University of Washington, Seattle. The committee noted her expertise in communication with medically underserved ethnic minority populations, as well as her selection by the Academy of Hospice and Palliative Care Medicine as one of the Inspiring Hospice and Palliative Care Leaders Under 40.

Keith M. Swetz, MD, MA, FACP, FAAHPM, section chief and medical director of palliative care at the Birmingham VA Medical Center and an associate professor at University of Alabama School of Medicine in the division of gerontology, geriatrics, and palliative care. He is already nationally known for his clinical skill, especially in caring for patients with advanced heart failure, and has earned a reputation locally as the “go-to guy” for hospice and palliative care.

The prize recipients were selected by a committee convened by The Hastings Center and chaired by Richard Payne, MD, the Esther Colliflower Professor of Medicine and Divinity at Duke University and the John B. Francis Chair in Bioethics at the Center for Practical Bioethics, and a member of The Hastings Center’s board of directors. In addition to Dr. Payne, the committee members are Thomas P. Duffy, M.D., of Yale University; Kathleen M. Foley, M.D., of Weill Medical College of Cornell University and Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center; and Diane E. Meier, M.D., of the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai Hospital.